Opinion: Latest shopping trends driving the retail rebound

By Pankaj Kumar, Head OmniChannel Retail at Jumbo Group

Images Retail ME

With the latest report from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce showing a positive outlook on the future of retail in the UAE as sales expect to hit $58 billion by the end of 2021 it is important to look at the developments that led the market to this strong recovery. Leading household spending across the Middle East and North Africa, the UAE has driven the retail rebound with changes in the customer journey supporting this impact.

As the customer journey has shifted, retailers must support and adapt to the changing needs of their customer groups. As the market stabilizes, we find ourselves dealing with new norms for consumer shopping behaviour and this creates a unique opportunity for retailers to enhance their offering. As a pioneer in the UAE marketplace, Jumbo Retail has continuously innovated in bringing services and products that evolve the retail experience.

Over the past year, we have observed the following trends in the UAE retail market:


Customers are not only expecting quick delivery but are looking for better convenience from retailers in terms of delivery options given the preference to maintain social distancing. Offering preferred delivery slot options helps customers to choose to receive their products at a date or time that suits their schedule. For customers who have urgent requirements, offering express delivery services within a few hours provides an exceptional value to consumers. Curbside collection services are also gaining popularity to help avoid crowded spaces.

These diverse options help organizations to optimize resources and deliver at the customer’s convenience. Since Jumbo has started offering this, we have been able to improve our vehicle routing efficiencies resulting in over 95% on time deliveries with a significant increase in productivity. Customer satisfaction scores on delivery has also improved significantly resulting in a 30% increase in repeat purchase rates.

Customer Experience

While online platforms continue to elevate the user experience, in store still offers customers the opportunity to touch and feel products before buying. For high involvement purchases such as lifestyle & technology products, this is an important stage in the customer journey. Interacting face-to-face with a knowledgeable expert can provide insight for customers as they consider their purchase. Current customers choosing to return to physical stores have an expectation of quality service and informed staff, particularly when it comes to electronics. Even while store footfalls may be lower, retailers can leverage staff to aid consumers online, and bring them to the physical store for last stages of the buying journey.

We have been using our store and contact centre staff to assist customers online and help complete purchase journeys online or in-store. Leveraging Endless Aisle to fulfil orders for stocks which we do not merchandise in some of our smaller stores helps to close sales on the spot. Since launching these initiatives two years ago, these have helped to increase our eCommerce sales by up to 20%.

Product Mix

As purchases have shifted away from travel and holidays, we are seeing people use retail therapy as a replacement to find the right technology to lead a more productive and comfortable lifestyle, thus establishing a new and diverse product mix.

This mix has evolved in four key ways. The first is productivity, as we strive to work and learn from home the need for more efficient technology has driven purchases of items such as laptops, routers, monitors and headsets. Secondly, as we spend more time at home, entertainment essentials have boomed, with upgrades to larger TVs, sound systems, gaming laptops and consoles. Thirdly, comfort products like air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, cooking essentials and digital learning thermostats have become priorities to achieve a better home environment. Lastly, increases in data breaches and phishing scams has led to a greater emphasis on home security, driving purchasing of cameras, smart locks and better anti-virus software.

This shift in the product mix means that retailers must bring in better search and discovery features to enable customers to find the right products and ecosystem of accessories or adjacent products. Within our own website we recently launched an auto recommender that uses AI to pick the right accessory with a main product, which has significantly increased attach rates.

In summary, the nature of these trends means greater emphasis on customer support and set up services to ensure a seamless experience at each aspect of the customer journey. Retailers must pay close attention to these evolving dynamics in order to win in the marketplace.